More than 150 years of surviving were represented in the stately Gaylord’s Living Room Saturday.
Mary Williamson, director of the American Cancer Society, Kaua‘i unit, said this was the first time the ACS has hosted a survivors’ rally outside of the Relay for Life.
Organized by Erika Sy and Val Rivera, Williamson said the idea for the gathering was to try and get more survivors to come out and volunteer.
Among the survivors, Mitsue Kataoka has seen 30 years since her procedure to combat cancer. She was the veteran survivor and Williamson said she is one of the first people who talk to patients diagnosed with cancer.
Jerry Kaneholani is just coming off his program, but that didn’t stop him from coming with his ‘ukulele — just in case the gathering needed some music.
Williamson said according to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, about 3 percent of a community’s population are survivors.
This means on Kaua‘i there are 1,500 to 2,000 survivors, a number that survivor Dolly Kikuchi debated.
“There are a lot more than that, here,” she said following Williamson’s statement.
Williamson, herself a survivor, said the Baby Boomers are aging, and as a result, cancer incidents will be increasing.
“This means there will be more people that need to know about what the ACS offers in services as well as educating the people about cancer,” Williamson said.
About 35 survivors came together to familiarize themselves with ACS programs and materials as well as socialize with other survivors.
“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t know where to go,” said Gene Redden, a survivor who attended with his wife. “The ACS people were really helpful and helped us get through this. I don’t know where we would be today if it wasn’t for them.”
Williamson said part of the reason for the gathering is to pre-register survivors and volunteers for the ACS Relay for Life which is scheduled for May 5 at the Hanapepe Stadium.
Survivors have traditionally kicked off the event with the Survivors’ Walk followed by a reception in a special tent set up for them.
“We need to do a better job of letting people know of the services available from the ACS,” Williamson said, inviting the survivors to get a better look at the various displays and literature available.
She said when people are diagnosed with cancer, they usually seek out other people who have successfully battled cancer “because you have been on the journey.”